Bigfoot is characterized as a large, bipedal creature covered in hair with long arms, toned muscles, and an appearance representing a combination of man and ape. The question of how such a species could exist alongside ours without having been discovered by our scientific community is baffling to many; individuals tend to boast that if this creature ever did exist, it must be extinct by now, otherwise we would have discovered it. However, we are not lending this creature’s intelligence, and possible origins enough credit. Today we take a walk back through time; we will dissect the evolution of apes and man to discover clues about how a man-like species might survive as long as us, without directly competing and remaining elusive. How did it get here, and how intelligent could it be? We will piece together the characteristics of Ardipithecus, Paranthropus, and Australopithecus to determine which branch of bipedal man and ape-like creatures Bigfoot may have descended from. Ardipithecus was the very first ape species to walk bipedally. They are the closest link we have to primates. This species was rather small and primitive, so Bigfoot stemming off of this branch is unlikely.
The next two groups of evolved human-like species were Australopithecus and Paranthropus. These groups both walked upright but differed in some characteristics. For example, Paranthropus aethiopicus had large megadont teeth and a very strong jaw. Perhaps the most important feature to note on this species was a developed sagittal crest (slightly pointed head at the top of the skull) which allowed for huge chewing muscles. Since the muscles that connected toward the back of the crest were so strong, these creatures were able to chew very well with their front teeth. Unfortunately, very few remains of this species have been found. Just like other creatures from the Paranthropus genus, Paranthropus boisei had adaptations for strong chewing. A prominent sagittal crest on the midline of the top of the skull connected large chewing muscles from the top and side of the braincase to the lower jaw. This anatomy moved the species’ jaw up and down very mechanically. This creature had huge cheek teeth four-times the size of a modern human’s and the thickest dental enamel of any known early human. Because of their sagittal crest and larger cranial capacity, this species had a fast-growing brain. Remember, food equals intelligence in the equation of evolution.
The Australopithecine group was known for land and tree-dwelling, with adaptations for both walking and climbing. These creatures had traits of both humans and apes. For example, Australopithecus anamensis has a shin bone showing a human-like placement of the ankle joint, which points to frequent bipedalism. However, their long arms and strong wrist bones indicate their climbing abilities which likely lasted close to 1 million years. These multi-functional limbs supporting walking and climbing were also found in Australopithecus africanus, whose round cranium housed a large brain, and Australopithecus afarensis, whose children matured quickly after birth. Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and best-known early human species, surviving for more than 900,000 years (four times as long as our own species has been around.) Perhaps their land and tree adaptations allowed them to excel and sustain as a species for so long. After Australopithecus and alongside the Paranthropus group came Homo.
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